This novel coronavirus has turned our lives upside down, hasn't it?
It has forced millions of us to go through a mandatory simplification in our lives.
This, in turn, has also brought about a new transformation on a global scale. Along with a shift in our production and consumption methods, a transformation in areas ranging from health care to education has become inevitable as well.
With all this extra time to think and research while stuck at home, we are once again realizing our real needs – nutrition, shelter, and social ties.
The novel coronavirus is making us realize the importance of issues we used to disregard, things we took for granted or measures for change we just kept postponing. We are realizing that healthy eating does not comprise of just eating meat or greens, that cleaning can also be done with soap made with olive oil. We are seeing how much traveling, having clean air, seeing the sun, sharing and solidarity mean to us.
We are re-grasping that our planet is not a "resource" that will serve us forever, that all beings on Earth, living or inorganic, are part of a whole and we share invisible ties. We are starting to register that if we use too much water, we will run out. We are seeing that we can live without closets and closets full of clothes and that agriculture and food safety is crucial.
While some of us can shield ourselves from the virus at home, essential workers in sectors such as health care, agriculture, food, energy, food, transportation and security continue to risk their lives for the needs of millions. The awareness of this risk is starting to sink in, and this risk enables us to take steps not to request unnecessary products and services and to experience what we can do to change our consumption habits.
This pandemic, too, will pass, but there are more serious problems awaiting us, experts have warned. The climate crisis and environmental destruction will eventually (maybe sooner than later thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic) force us all to reduce our consumption and transform our lives for the better.
This pandemic, which has undermined the values of wealth and money, has also allowed us to review our actual needs and push us to seek ways we can simplify. Here are a few ideas from the Buğday (wheat in English) Association for Supporting Ecological Living.
Buy local, eat local
We may not know how long this pandemic will last or how long we will have to stay at home but it has reminded us once again how important it is to have access to food, and close by. It is now our turn to warn decision-makers and policymakers, and make more effort toward implementing environmentally friendly producing and harvesting methods that care about the Earth's health, as well as our own and that of other species we share this planet with.
By directly supporting local production in our own regions, we can meet our needs locally instead of turning to far-away sources and sellers, thus reducing our ecological and carbon footprint.
Dine with the planet in mind
In recent years, and especially since this pandemic broke out, proper nutrition has been gaining more and more importance with a focus on ecologically and environmentally friendly produce, grown with local seeds.
One important point to consider about food products that find their way onto our table is the methods with which they are grown. Those grown with conventional agricultural chemicals such as nitrogen, nitrites, phosphorous and phosphates alongside other pesticides and fertilizers have been found to cause both acute and chronic diseases as well as pollute our soil and water. Thus, by infecting these sources, these chemicals can kill many species living in those habitats, drastically reducing biogenetic diversity, which we need for the future of our food.
When in doubt DIY
By making your own bread, yogurt and cheese at home, you can both avoid going out for food shopping and maintain a healthier, probiotic-rich diet. This might be the best time to get started on your journey of home-cooked meals.
Compost at home
Now is the time to make use of and transform your kitchen waste. You can realize your dream of composting – which you have put off by claiming you don't have enough time – on your balcony, if you have one, or in a corner of your garden. You can even gather your neighbors and convince them to join in. You can still compost together as long as you pay attention to social distancing.
Avoid polluting when cleaning
One other thing this pandemic has reminded us is that we do not need highly-perfumed, harmful chemical-laded detergents and that soap and water are sufficient. We need to realize how some chemicals in detergents can pollute our water supplies, soil and environment, and hurt our health while cleaning. White vinegar and baking soda or plain old soap can sometimes be better alternatives to strong, smelly bleach. In fact, bleach has been found to cause, and not just trigger, asthma, according to research by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC). Weekly use of bleach as a disinfectant has also been linked to a higher risk of – up to almost a third – of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Of course, with the coronavirus running rampant, some experts are recommending using diluted bleach to clean hard surfaces, so if you don't believe in the power of soap and water, make sure to ventilate the room well and don't overdo it. Also, try to limit its contamination with your water supplies.
Reduce energy use
Around 7 million people worldwide die every year due to health problems caused by air pollution. In Turkey alone, it is estimated to kill 29,000 people every year. The most important factor behind air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, emitted in heating, energy production and transportation. The significant reduction in transportation and energy usage due to the coronavirus pandemic has had positive implications for our air quality. This serves to show that the future measures we will take are critical to reduce and prevent air pollution.
The informatics footprint
Technology, its benefits endless, is not that innocent. While we browse for hours and hours on social media, text on WhatsApp or watch videos on YouTube, we are consuming energy and thus the resources of our planet. The energy consumed by the internet and the carbon footprint it leaves behind are about to surpass that of civilian aircraft. According to data from 2015, the internet releases 830 million tons of CO2, which is equal to the power of approximately 80 nuclear power plants.
Yes, the internet is a vital part of our lives, but perhaps we could try to reduce the amount we spend on it daily. You can, too, reduce your IT footprint with simple steps such as just pressing reply instead of “reply all” in appropriate cases, leave unnecessary e-mail groups, use clean energy cloud servers for data and unplug electrical devices when they are not in use.
Easier to prevent than treat
The coronavirus outbreak has also changed our view of health. We have once again grasped the wholeness of our body, the importance of our immune system and the effect of nutrition on it. While the health system needs regulations not only for diseases and patients but also to keep people and animals healthy, each of us can take individual steps and take preventive health precautions before it is too late.
Gear up for bigger crises
The coronavirus outbreak is giving us an opportunity to change our lives and improve our own health, our quality of life and the health of the planet. If we do not take this opportunity, climate experts are warning that the problems caused by environmental pollution will hit us hard in the face.
At the root of the troubles caused by the coronavirus lies dominant patterns of thought and behavior and, in particular, consumerist culture. We need to create new ways of thinking, behavior and habits, to design production-consumption models and lead lifestyles compatible with our ecosystem, instead of reverting back to our old ways.
We can stay at our homes today, but tomorrow, neither washing our hands nor staying at home will be a remedy for problems such as drought, ecological migration and illness caused by climate changes that experts have warned for years.
As Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
The key to solving these evidently lies in global transformation, which will come via responsible policies and strategies in all fields, from energy to agriculture, health to education and housing to transportation.
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